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Randy Krbechek's Metronews
Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

July 23, 1997

Be My Friend

Kim RIcheyKim Richey, Bitter Sweet (Mercury Nashville 1997) - Country charmer Kim Richey appeared this Spring at Hanford's Fox Theatre with Junior Brown. And the show was a good mix, as Richey's sweet ballads contrasted with Junior's six-string fireworks.

Bitter Sweet (the second album from the lanky 40-year old blond) is a fair showcase for her talents. (Though I don't appreciate the airbrushed cheesecake picture on the back cover; there's no need to use sex appeal to sell this album.)

All of the songs on Bitter Sweet were written or co-written by Richey. Her main collaborator is bass player Angelo Petraglia, who also handled production duties on all cuts save one: "I Know," which was co-written and produced by John Leventhal (known for his work with Shawn Colvin and wife, Rosanne Cash).

Richey moved to Nashville nine years ago at the urging of friend Bill Lloyd, formerly of the hit-making country duo Foster & Lloyd. Says Richey, "After I moved down here, I started writing songs and learning a lot about songwriting." That's an understatement; Richey is a prolific songwriter, and her song, "Nobody Wins," was a number two hit for Radney Foster in 1993.

Richey's talent glows on such songs as "To Tell the Truth" and "The Lonesome Side of Town," just as she captured the audience when she allowed her vulnerable side to show. Able to write a deceptively simple song with mature content, Kim Richey should enjoy her day in the sun. Country fans will delight in Bitter Sweet.

SubdudesThe Subdudes, Live at Last (High Street Records 1997) - One of the country's most unique groups, The Subdudes, called it a career last year after a decade of hard work and touring. Live At Last is a parting gift to their fans.

The Subdudes were originally formed in New Orleans as the Continental Drifters. One night, the band decided to play an acoustic set. The rest, as they say, is history; that acoustic band became The Subdudes, and the group relocated to the mountains of Colorado while still retaining their intoxicating New Orleans influences.

With a sound that ranged from soulful to house rockin' to gospel, The Subdudes were an intelligent breath of fresh air. In particular, 1993's Annunciation was an uplifting, spiritual album that featured the group's strong vocals amid paired-down arrangements.

While the group won high praise from fans and fellow musicians, the pressures of the road eventually became too much, and the group decided to disband. But they left behind Live at Last, recorded during their farewell tour of venues ranging from San Francisco to Minneapolis to Rochester, New York.

I never saw The Subdudes live, so can't comment on whether Live at Last is a fair reflection of their concert performances. Like many bands that are comfortable with the mixing board, the Subdudes' live performances aren't as consistent as their studio recordings, though the introspective "Message Man" remains a great song.

Fans will enjoy Live at Last, although newcomers may want to start with their studio releases.

They Might Be GiantsThey Might Be Giants, Then: The Earlier Years (Restless Records 1997) - Sometimes you just can't connect with a band, no matter how hard you try. So I am with They Might Be Giants. Since I heard songwriter Al Stewart mention several years ago that they were his favorite new band, I've tried hard to find a hook this quirky duo, but have never succeeded.

Then: The Earlier Years is a lavish 72-song, double-CD compilation of They Might Be Giants' early work, including 15 unreleased tracks and home recordings previously only available on the duo's "dial-a-song" phone line in New York. But my opinion remains unchanged: I just can't get a handle on these guys.

Comprised of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, They Might Be Giants know musical boundaries. Willing to try any musical quirk, the band's sound ranged from low tech to polka to punk. Along the way, they delivered such songs as "Youth Culture Killed My Dog," and "Shoehorn with Teeth."

In addition to their work together, the pair (who now record with a full band on their Elektra albums) also have side projects: John Flansburgh has directed videos for Soul Coughing, Edwyn Collins, and Frank Black, and records with Mono Puff; while John Linnell played on the debut releases from the John Spencer Blues Explosion and Frank Black.

The two CDs (each of which is maxed out at over 70 minutes of music) are a completist's dream, as they include the Brooklyn-based band's three albums for Bar/None and Restless Records in their entirety: the 1986 self-titled debut, 1988's Lincoln, and 1991's B-side compilation, Miscellaneous T, together with all of the songs released on their four EP's (including Purple Toupe and (She Was a) Hotel Detective).

I really like the packaging for Then: The Earlier Years. And, being a completist at heart, I appreciate the inclusion of all of their pre-Elektra recordings. But I still don't get it. Maybe this pair is just a too Brooklyn for me.

-- Randy Krbechek

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